Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Craft Beer Boom Causes Hop Variety Shortages

Wall Street Journal:

It takes hop developers such as S.S. Steiner Inc. and Select Botanicals Group about 10 years to cross-pollinate the beer-flavoring plants to create proprietary varieties with unique flavors and aromas. The results are new types including lemondrop and citra.
Only about 10 hop varieties are central to many of today’s popular IPAs, and more than 4,000 brewers are battling for them, says Wicked Weed co-owner Luke Dickinson, who named the brewery after Henry VIII’s reported description of hops as a “wicked and pernicious weed.”...
In addition to the 10 high-demand hops, farmers have to balance demand for more than 40 other varieties that are less popular but equally as important to some beer recipes.
Production is complicated by the time it takes to grow hops. The plants produce about 50% to 75% of their potential yield in the first year on average and don’t mature fully until their second or third year. Meanwhile, new breweries open daily. Those startups often are uncertain about growth plans, making it risky for farmers to commit to long-term contracts with them....
The Pacific Northwest produces about 40% of the global hop supply and a majority of the kind of hops that craft brewers prefer. Until about 2012, farmers mostly grew alpha styles that are used to give established brews such as Budweiser and Miller Lite their bitterness. Now more of that production is done in Germany, according to Hop Growers of America, a trade group.
We have to be reaching peak craft beer.  I am tempted to plant some hops just for shits and giggles, though.

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